Dogs Know When You're Not Telling the Truth
Next time you talk to your dog, you might want to be more careful. Groundbreaking new research suggests that dogs don't just perceive what you say, they also recognize how you say it, meaning your dog understands you way more than you ever knew.
Using brain scans performed on several family dogs, scientists in Hungary concluded that your furry friend is actually capable of understanding the words you say and discerning the tone of your voice, according to a report by The Washington Post. Basically, there's a good chance your dog won't get excited about going to the groomer or the vet, even though you told them about it in an excited tone of voice. That's right: your dog can detect your bullshit, and it doesn't even involve their superior sense of smell.
The new study, recently published in Science, goes on to conclude that dogs process language in the same areas of the brain as humans, which suggests they're even more like people than previously understood. It turns out that dogs, like humans, use the left hemisphere of their brains to process words and the right hemisphere of their brains to process intonation. Thankfully, the researchers created the below video to break down the findings:
While the dogs were scanned in the fMRI, the researchers measured their brain activity in response to human speech delivered in a praising tone of voice and neutral tone of voice. They also looked closely at what happened in the dogs' brains when the researchers used neutral words like "if," which are generally meaningless to dogs, in the same praising tone of voice versus a neutral tone of voice. Unsurprisingly, praise stimulated the dogs' "rewards center" or the region of the brain that reacts to pleasure.
However, the scans revealed that the dogs felt the most pleasure when the researchers praised them with positive words like "well done" and a praising (typically higher pitch) tone of voice.
"It shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match, Attila Andics of the University of Budapest, said in a statement, per the report. "So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant."
While the findings are certainly exciting, they're probably not shocking to people who spend a lot of time talking to their dogs. Either way, the next time you tell your dog how damn cute and good they are, just make sure your tone matches your words. A treat will probably help, too.
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